The older you become, the more hurdles you go through, the better is your understanding of who your true friends are. There’s a good Russian saying “better to have 100 good friends than 100 dollars”. Most of us would be lucky to have a handful of people that we can definitely say are our true friends and for me the most important aspect is the quality of friendship rather than the quantity. The cycle of life and many events and occurrences along the way make us reassess the people we actually want to be surrounded by and communicate with.
Many of my closest friends I do not get to see or even speak to often. I wish there was more than 24 hours in a day, but that’s a fantasy of many and a reality of none. However, I know that if the push came to shove and I needed their help, a shoulder to cry on or a friendly ear, they would be there for me in a heartbeat. Children, partners, parents, work and other personal commitments as well as the distance between us make it almost impossible for frequent interactions. Nevertheless, a true friend would most definitely understand that we are all busy and life does unfortunately get in the way of catch ups and meaningful conversations.
What is the solution to keeping friendships alive? I have found that the following worked for me:
1. Always consider the other person’s circumstances and be understanding. Do they have kids and shared arrangements? Do they care for other people? Do you know what is happening at their work or with their health? Not everyone likes to share their issues and most people tend to bear their own cross in life without complaints not to burden their friends with negativity. If you are a good friend, you should know when to stand on the sideline and just ‘be there’.
2. Try to make time for those you want to remain friends with but understand that they may not necessarily have time for you right at this moment. Their lack of time for you may be a result of personal dilemmas, commitments or other unfortunate events you do not have any knowledge of. Furthermore, partners, kids’ weekend schedules and other responsibilities may make it almost impossible to find a mutually convenient time when you want it. You should keep in touch but not push if you feel that your friend cannot spare any time at this point.
3. Do not be selfish or needy. If you friend has not expressed much desire to catch up, it may not have anything to do with your friendship but with their own life. Always try to look at the friendship from above as an unbiased bystander. The fact that you are free on weekends does not mean that your friends should drop everything to see you and rearrange their life to accommodate you.
4. Do not be jealous if your friends catch up with others more frequently. You do not own your friends’ time or their exclusive friendship. Parents with kids may find it easier to schedule a catch up with their friends who either have kids or who understand kids’ schedules and needs or who have been in their children’s lives from birth. Couples may have family commitments and singles may not want to be surrounded by couples or children for too long.
5. Be patient and have some self-respect. If you feel that someone you considered a friend does not return your calls or makes vague statements about a future catch up – bow out gracefully. Stop calling and messaging and see if they contact you. Either way, you will know where you stand but taking it up with them in an accusatory manner may well mean the end of your friendship.
Over time you will know for sure who your true friends are and how to keep those friendships. In the meantime, have a hard look at yourself, as the issues you are having may be streaming directly from within you or from the way you interact with others. Self-assessment would also allow you to deal with many other internal issues and permit you to move forward in life with your head held high.